|This week in SHOWCASE|
|An Indelible Feast by Alex Shvartsman|
|Stanhope’s Finest by Natalie J. E. Potts|
|Allegory at Table Seven by Jarod K. Anderson|
|Badger & Vole Review: THOR: The Dark World|
|Learning Experiences: Appliancé|
Story and comments by Bruce Bethke
|Editorial: Show Your Work|
|Previews of Coming Attractions|
|Support STUPEFYING STORIES|
|SHOWCASE Back Issues|
|Frequently Asked Questions|
|Return to Front Page, Latest Issue|
|#9 - November 8, 2013|
|#8 - October 29, 2013|
|#7 - September 6, 2013|
|#6 - August 26, 2013|
|#5 - July 26, 2013|
|#4 - July 12, 2013|
|#3 - June 28, 2013|
|#2 - June 21, 2013|
|#1 - June 14, 2013|
|Like us on facebook:|
|Email the editors:|
feedback@this site dot com
|How to submit a story:|
READ THIS OR ELSE!
|Visit the mothership:|
|All contents ©2013 by their respective authors, unless otherwise noted.|
|STUPEFYING STORIES is a trademark and STUPEFYING STORIES SHOWCASE, STUPEFYING STORIES MAGAZINE, STUPEFYING STORIES PRESENTS, STUPEFYING STORIES: THE LUNCHBOX, STUPEFYING STORIES: THE FLAMETHROWER, etc., etc., etc., are productions of Rampant Loon Media LLC, P.O. Box 111, Lake Elmo, MN 55042.|
|By sending email to feedback[at]stupefyingstoriesshowcase.com, you implicitly consent to having the contents of your email made public at the sole discretion of the editors, with no compensation due you for this publication and no matter how much personal embarrassment or humiliation this may cause you. So be nice, and remember: submissions go to the submissions address, not the feedback address!|
by Natalie J. E. Potts
I blame the pilot. Not for the whole at-the-wheel-when-it-crashed thing, but rather for the convoluted message he tried to put out over the P.A. When the in-flight entertainment was muted and we were told, “This is the captain... crackle, crackle... get ready... crackle. bleezipp crunch,” we were all left looking blankly at each other instead of getting into the emergency crash position—as was no doubt the pilot’s intention.
Not that an emergency crash position is good for anything other than getting your lips closer to your arse to kiss it goodbye. Flying at supersonic speed in the mesosphere, you are beyond hope if anything goes wrong.
I watched the curtain up front for a moment, thinking the announcement might have been for the afternoon snack and wondering if my gluten-free meal would come out first. The thought of food sent bile up the back of my throat and I knew the countdown was on again for the evacuation of my stomach.
Lunch had been touted as Stanhope crabs, which I selected eagerly, having never eaten crab before and knowing that work was picking up the tab. Only after I vomited three shades of red and something that looked suspiciously like my left testicle did I realize the menu actually said Stamhope crabs—which turns out are mud crabs raised on fermented cow dung, and are something of a delicacy in a demented part of the world.
So as the plane started to bounce I ignored the seatbelt sign and dashed for the toilet, getting there just in time to bring up what was left of my stomach lining. Perhaps God mistook the intention of my kneeling because one moment I was holding onto the bog-bowl, heaving myself into unconsciousness, and the next I was bobbing about in the ocean with no memory of how I got there.
No one else survived. At least I assume they didn’t. I floated around for a while on a piece of insulation, but no one surfaced. Well, no whole people, at any rate. Eventually my million-dollar piece of supersonic junk sank, so I knew it was time to go. I ferreted through the few remaining things on the water’s surface in the hopes of finding something to keep me afloat.
This is where I think God cottoned-on to my actual intentions in the toilet and decided to pay me back. My hand brushed against something rubber, which I thought might be the aircraft’s emergency boat, but it turned out to be a rather ugly sex doll. For reasons I still can’t explain I named her Greta.
Not being an expert in such things, I overinflated her. I know this because when I threw myself on top of her all her inny bits became outy bits, which made her seem quite excited about the swim ahead of us. I tried poking them back in a few times, but this just left me strangely aroused, and I didn’t need the extra drag in the water. Thus buoyed, I dog-paddled toward a dark smudge on the horizon that I hoped would be land.
Things went on like this for some hours, giving me the chance to ponder the big questions in life, such as did I take my ex-wife’s name off the beneficiary list of my life insurance policy? By the time the sun started to slip behind what had turned out to be land, it had burnt my face to crispy flakes of agony. A slight breeze picked up, making the water choppy and sending agonising little waves of brine into my face.
At the end of the day, I finally made land and dragged myself onto the beach in time to feel the last rays of warmth depart with the sun over the horizon. With no idea where I was and very little light from the moonless sky, I decided against exploring. I dug myself into the sand to retain what little warmth I could and settled in for the night. I must confess that I felt like a Black Ops survival hero, until, sometime in the early hours of the morning, the tide rose and flooded my little bivouac, leaving me uncomfortably chilled.
The next morning greeted me with a clear blue sky. It might have been pleasant except for three little things: the crabs who had mistaken my sleeping body for a dead one and started feeding on it; the maddening pain radiating from my face (which I couldn’t touch because my hands were covered in sand and salt and things that inflicted even more pain when applied to blisters); and the very real belief that this day would be my last.
These things played on my mind a little as I struggled up the beach and cast my eye around my little island paradise. I figured I had stumbled across one of the Pacific islands, because the only other landmass I would have flown over was Antarctica, and despite our best efforts to warm the planet, Antarctica was still mostly covered with ice.
By comparison this island was covered by derelict houses and potholed roads. Most of the Pacific had been quarantined in the late 2030’s after the flu pandemic, and fortunately ten years on from that any survivors clearly hadn’t—so I figured I was safe.
The ghost town didn’t show any signs of petering out no matter how far I walked, and when I made it over another rise, I could see why. This wasn’t just a Pacific island; it was a Pacific continent. Two small shells of the Sydney Opera House were still standing, while the rest lay in a mess of shattered tiles and broken theatre seats awash in the flooded harbour.
So here I was at ground zero for the Pacific flu pandemic, in a country that no longer existed, with a face full of oozing sores and no prospects of getting home. The only way it could get better would be if I fell into a sink-hole filled with brown snakes, funnel-web spiders, and maybe a couple of crocodiles for good measure.
Strangely enough, that thought got my mind onto the subject of food.
My search of the supermarkets was unsurprisingly fruitless (and vegetableless, and meatless...) as pretty much everything had been ransacked long before I got there. So I went dockside and decided to repay the kindness of my carnivorous little crab friends to their cousins in the harbour.
At Stanhope’s you can pay anything up to $10,000 for a decent crab meal. On Meso-Air a crab meal can save your life. In Sydney harbour, a crab can almost get you killed.
The thing about crabs is that they pretend to be slow when you are creeping up on them, but as soon as you reach out, they move like quicksilver. I slipped on jagged rocks enough times to cut open all my limbs, but not quite enough to break any of them. This gave me an idea. I sat down in the mud and lay my bleeding hands flat, palms up; a veritable smorgasbord of dead and dying human tissue.
Within minutes the little armoured rats were coming out for a nibble. The first one that clamped onto my index finger quickly found himself in my death-grip. I let out a triumphant yowl as I swung him over and smashed him on the rock beside me.
Not a good plan, as it turns out. Crab shells are apparently there just to hold all the goo together before they are cooked, and there was very little left of him.
My next victim nearly took the end off my little finger. This time I tried to crunch his head on the corner of a rock to leave him mostly intact. Here is where I discovered that I have no idea where a crab brain is. I ended up mashing in half the front end of the crustacean before he let go of my pinkie. Despite my sense of victory, the little creature did not taste sweet.
When the sun had passed its zenith I figured it was time to start looking for a more comfortable option for the night, mindful of the killer drop-bears and boxing kangaroos which would no doubt take over the city after dark. That was when I happened upon the radio station. Yeah, obvious now, but in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs I’m pretty sure radio stations are a couple of steps up from food and shelter, so I won’t beat myself up too much over it.
I had no problems with inspiration once I got inside. I brought in a car battery from a mechanic’s shop and joined it to the console. Once wired up, I pressed the push-to-talk button and was rewarded with a crackle of static not too dissimilar to the one that blanked out the message our pilot had cocked-up earlier.
“Hello, can anyone hear me?”
“I am a survivor from the Meso-Air crash, requesting rescue from Sydney, Australia.” Just then a flake of my face fell off, reminding me that I was not in top shape.
“I need urgent medical assistance. I think I might have eaten some poisonous crabs. They were green with red dots, and oh my God, the taste! If you can imagine sucking out diarrhoea you’d be pretty close.” At this point sparks jumped out of the panel, enough to burn my hand, but not enough to set the place on fire.
Then everything went dead.
Turns out the only part of my call that got through was “Sydney... crabs... green with red dots... my God the taste...” which led to a serendipitous misunderstanding.
Two days later a porter-copter from Stanhope’s flew over. Turns out the Sydney rock crab was thought to be extinct. I’m guessing they taste better when cooked with a little wine, butter, and garlic, but Stanhope’s was keen to snap up what was left before the environmentalists arrived.
Apparently long-dead radio channels are mandatory listening for geeks afraid of going out into the real world and doing something with their lives, so my message was picked up and loaded onto MyFlick with a rude cartoon, and went viral within hours of my transmission. That was how Stanhope’s had found out about it. I’ll have to remember to sue the kid who posted it for royalties.
The porter-copter did a few turns over the bay before they saw me and came over to investigate. My lobster-like burns confused the ‘copter guys somewhat, causing them to shoot at me a few times before they got close enough to hear me calling for help in an accent much like their own. They later told me they thought I had the Pacific flu and figured they were doing me a favour by taking me out. I didn’t hold it against them. I probably would have done the same thing.
Of course Stanhope’s didn’t send them there for a rescue, so I had to take the guys to where I had been catching the crabs. The men looked as excited as Greta carrying a 200-pound dead weight when they saw the little mud-walkers. I warned them of the hazards of trying to catch the little bastards, but within twenty minutes they had every one caged without so much as a nip on a finger.
The porter-copter was only set up for two passengers, so I rode in the back, pressed up against the basket of crabs. I lost part of another finger and a fair chunk of skin from the right side of my back, but made it back home and straight into hospital.
Turns out I’m allergic to crabs.
Natalie J E Potts is an Australian speculative fiction writer whose short stories have been published in Antipodean SF, 100 Stories for Queensland, 365 Tomorrows, Roar & Thunder, Aphelion, and Trembles, among many others. She’s currently focusing her attention on novels, but every now and then a short story like “Stanhope’s Finest” sneaks up and demands to be written.